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Mark Sickles, Delegate (Franconia, VA)

Making Health Care More Affordable in Virginia

This week, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed Delegate Mark Sickles’ Commonwealth Health Reinsurance Program into law. The legislation directs the State Corporation Commission to establish a reinsurance program which would reduce consumers’ health insurance premiums, fully offsetting premiums that average $650 per month. Small business owners would also benefit from stabilized budgets and lower costs, allowing them to invest more in their businesses and workers. Read more about the bill, and how it will help make healthcare more affordable for Virginians.

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Kerry Donovan, Senator (Vail, CO)

A Public Option for Colorado

This week, Colorado Senator Kerry Donovan introduced the Colorado Health Insurance Option Plan, which would add a public option to Colorado’s health insurance exchange. The goal is to lower premiums, not just on the exchange, but for all health insurance customers in Colorado. The legislation gives industry until the end of 2024 to reach a desired 20 percent reduction in premiums, and only implements the Colorado Option in 2025 if that goal is not met. “This isn’t about imposing government mandates on the industry or forcing anyone to give up health care that they already have and like,” said Donovan, stressing the need to bring everyone to the table to solve high health care costs. The public option plans would be targeted to those who buy health insurance either on the individual or small group markets. Read more about the proposal here.

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Nima Kulkarni, Representative (Louisville, KY)

Targeting Maternal Mortality

With Kentucky in a “maternal mortality crisis,” NewDEAL Leader Kentucky Representative Nima Kulkarni has joined a group of women legislators spearheading a legislative package that focuses on resources that address urgent challenges facing mothers and their children. More than 20 proposals tackle everything from increased Medicaid coverage to elimination of sales tax on feminine products. Rep. Kulkarni particularly highlighted the state’s high incarceration rate for women and the need to improve care for those who are incarcerated while pregnant. Read more on the Kentucky Maternal and Infant Health Project.

Want to hear more from Rep. Kulkarni? Check out the latest episode of An Honorable Profession to hear her perspective on President Biden’s recent immigration work, from her position as a lawmaker and immigration attorney.

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Robert Garcia, Mayor (Long Beach, CA)

A Model Vaccine Rollout

As states and cities have varying levels of success with ramping up vaccinations, NewDEAL Leader Long Beach, CA Mayor Robert Garcia has created a system hailed by his governor as a model. The city’s effective response allowed it to be the first to open up vaccinations to non-medical essential workers after moving speedily through its first phase, which included health care workers and nursing home residents and staff. Building on the city’s prioritization of bringing testing to harder-hit neighborhoods, Long Beach turned testing sites into vaccine sites and created a robust notification system that keeps residents up to date on their eligibility. Read the New York Times write-up for more details on California’s vaccination process and Long Beach’s success.

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Joe Curtatone, Mayor (Somerville, MA)

Wastewater Testing
NewDEAL Leader Somerville, MA Mayor Joe Curtatone launched a COVID wastewater testing program to monitor for coronavirus and help reveal hotspots up to two weeks earlier than individual testing. Mayor Curtatone says the partnership with Northeastern University and Stantec, a private tech company, will “give us a head start” to reduce virus spread, and similar partnerships have helped other areas with controlling spread, like a partnership put in place back in April in New Castle County, DE by fellow NewDEAL Leader County Executive Matt Meyer. Read more about the advantages of this type of testing.

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Kate Bolz, Nebraska State Senator

Cutting the Rising Price of Insulin

In response to the rising cost of insulin, Nebraska Senator Kate Bolz introduced legislation that would cap the price per month at $100. The bill follows Colorado’s first-in-the-nation insulin price cap law that was sponsored by NewDEAL Leader Senator Kerry Donovan and signed by NewDEAL Honorary Vice Chair Governor Jared Polis. Read more about the Nebraska bill, which Bolz explains is necessary for cutting the prices that have reportedly increased by over 500% in the past fourteen years. “The 174,000 Nebraskans with diabetes,” Bolz says, “these are our relatives, friends, and neighbors who have to make decisions they know will damage their health, simply because they can no longer afford their insulin dosage.”

Feed to Achieve Act

Problem

Food insecurity in children is associated with nutrient deficiencies, increased risk for obesity, poor health, behavior problems, decreased social skills, and academic failure. School-age children from food insecure households have lower grades, more anxiety and aggression, and higher absenteeism and tardiness.

Solution

Child Nutrition Programs have been shown to effectively improve nutritional health and academic performance, reduce behavior programs, prevent obesity, introduce children to new and local foods, improve the school climate and help decrease families’ food budgets. Senator Unger therefore proposed the Feed to Achieve Act, which increases participation in these programs by improving the meal quality, offering multiple delivery systems, and by incorporating more local foods into school menus. This program promotes and supports federal Child Nutrition Programs that are currently in place throughout West Virginia schools and promotes a partnership with the private sector to combat childhood hunger issues in innovative ways.

Public-Private Partnerships for Crisis Care

Problem

Unaddressed mental health issues drive costs in both our criminal justice and homelessness systems, and contribute to rising healthcare costs. Only 5-9% of emergency room visits are for mental health crises, but the average stay is 17 hours. Having 24-hour drop-off triage centers helps people get connected to the services they need, and ultimately leads to long-term solutions. Unfortunately, there is not sufficient funding for these centers to make them effective.

Solution

County Commissioner Bailey is proposing a system where local government can work with private sector entities, like hospitals and insurers, who pay much of the cost of this problem, to measure the savings from triage centers and get a portion of the savings as a revenue stream to back social finance tools that provide the capital to run the centers. By working with hospitals, insurers, social finance, and public entities to fund 24-hour triage centers for people in mental health crisis, the county can offer better treatment while lowering the cost to everyone for crisis mental health care and unnecessary incarceration.”

Sustainable Community Farming Initiative

Problem

So few people have access to — or enough income to afford — fresh, organic, local vegetables. Many children go hungry and don’t receive the sustenance they need to grow and excel in school. Additionally, the use of pesticides and hormones in subsidized agribusiness and the fossil fuels expended bringing those products to market are substantial. All of this means that the environmental costs of modern agriculture are enormous and people’s ability to acquire healthy foods is too costly to their economic well being and our environment.

Solution

Mayor Dan Drew is helping create a grassroots community farming co-op that will source fresh, local, organic vegetables for low prices on public land and make them available to the entire community. This initiative simultaneously combats climate change, pesticide and hormone use, while increasing sustainability and economic fairness.. The city of Middletown has already issued a call for proposals from farmers throughout the state for what they would grow and how they would price the associated co-op shares. The City will lease publicly-owned farmland to these farmers at a low rate to keep costs down. They will also appoint a grassroots community review board to review proposals and make recommendations about the most efficacious amongst them. This approach will ensure that a sense of market competition is brought into the proposal and pricing process and will give the people of the community the final word in what will be planted and harvested and how much it will cost. Middletown has also garnered interest from the local community college to partner in some type of conservation-related educational initiative related to the project. 

Aboveground Storage Tank and Public Water Supply Protection Act

Problem

Spills or leaks from aboveground storage tanks can contaminate local water sources, hurting local economies and communities as they must redirect funds to address the problem.

Solution

Senator Unger passed legislation this year which outlines a reasonable regulatory structure to ensure all above ground storage tanks are meeting state standards. The bill requires the creation of a registry of aboveground storage tanks in order to aid inspection and management of the tanks. This legislation also requires the Bureau for Public Health to engage federal agencies in gathering medical information to assess potential long-term health effects associated with tank spills. This approach takes existing disjointed agencies and establishes a framework where necessary information is obtained and shared more efficiently between all parties involved.